Speech at Galena, Illinois by Abraham Lincoln


In this (publication of his) speech, Lincoln addresses the charges leveled at him by his opponents – that his goal is to dissolve the Union – and calls them “humbug.”



Hon. “ABRAHAM” “LINCOLN” hits the nail on the head every time, and in this instance it will be seen, he has driven it entirely out of sight,—if we succeed as well as we anticipate in re-producing from memory his argument in relation to “Disunion.”

Mr. “LINCOLN” was addressing himself to the opponents of “FREMONT” [2] and the Republican party, and had referred to the charge of “sectionalism,” and then spoke something as follows in relation to another charge, and said:

“You further charge us with being Disunionists. If you mean that it is our aim to dissolve the Union, for myself I answer, that is untrue; for those who act with me I answer, that it is untrue. Have you heard us assert that as our aim? Do you really believe that such is our aim? Do you find it in our platform, our speeches, our conversation, or anywhere? If not, withdraw the charge.

“But, you may say, that though it is not your aim, it will be the result, if we succeed, and that we are therefore Disunionists in fact. This is a grave charge you make against us, and we certainly have a right to demand that you specify in what way we are to dissolve the Union. How are we to effect this?

“The only specification offered is volunteered by Mr. Fillmore, in his Albany speech [3]. His charge is, that if we elect a President and Vice President both from the Free States, it will dissolve the Union. This is open folly. The Constitution provides, that the President and Vice President of the United States shall be of different States; but says nothing as to the latitude and longitude of those States. In 1828, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, were elected President and Vice President, both from slave States; but no one thought of dissolving the Union then, on that account. In 1840, Harrison of Ohio, and Tyler of Virginia, were elected. In 1841, Harrison died, and John Tyler succeeded to the Presidency, and William R. King, of Alabama, was elected Acting Vice-President by the Senate; but no one supposed that the Union was in danger. In fact, at the very time Mr. Fillmore uttered this idle charge, the state of things in the United States disproved it. Mr. Pierce of New Hampshire, and Mr. Bright of Indiana,—both from free States,—are President and Vice President; and the Union stands, and will stand. You do not contend that it ought to dissolve the Union, and the facts show that it won’t; therefore, the charge may be dismissed without further consideration.

“No other specification is made, and the only one that could be made is, that the restoration of the restriction of ’87, making the United States territory free territory, would dissolve the Union. Gentlemen, it will require a decided majority to pass such an act. We, the majority, being able constitutionally to do all that we purpose, would have no desire to dissolve the Union. Do you say that such restriction of slavery would be unconstitutional and that some of the States would not submit to its enforcement? I grant you that an unconstitutional act is not a law; but I do not ask, and will not take your construction of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States is the tribunal to decide such questions, and we will submit to its decisions; and if you do also, there will be an end of the matter. Will you? If not, who are the disunionists, you or we? We, the majority, would not strive to dissolve the Union; and if any attempt is made it must be by you, who so loudly stigmatize us as disunionists. But the Union, in any event, won’t be dissolved. We don’t want to dissolve it, and if you attempt it, we won’t let you. With the purse and sword, the army and navy and treasury in our hands and at our command, you couldn’t do it. This Government would be very weak, indeed, if a majority, with a disciplined army and navy, and a well-filled treasury, could not preserve itself, when attacked by an unarmed, undisciplined, unorganized minority.

“All this talk about the dissolution of the Union is humbug—nothing but folly. We “WON’T” dissolve the Union, and you “SHAN’T”.”




Weekly North-Western Gazette


[1] Originally published in the Galena Weekly North-Western Gazette, July 29, 1856, and later in the Illinois State Journal, August 8, 1856. For additional information on origins of this text, please visit the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/

[2] John C. Fremont, former Governor of California and first Republican Party candidate for President of the United States (1856). 

[3] Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States and last Whig President (1850-1853). The referred speech occurred on June 26, 1856, in Albany, New York. 


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